Back in August…

Back in August…

Man, I have a TON of posts to catch up on! But if I procrastinate any longer, I proably won’t even remember enough about the pictures I have to write about them…better late than ever.

Also goes to show that being busy enough not to blog means that life things are picking up, and have me occupied in a good way. I have some big travel plans coming up in a few weeks (work-related, but still exciting!), and I’m looking forward to what that experience will bring.

In the meantime, I’ll reflect back on what I was doing in early August, right after my b-day celebrations and my sister’s arrival back in Cali. It was my last weekend with the car in my possession, but I didn’t have the desire to drive out too far…

Actually, there was a lot going on locally. The USC Village was something that was under construction for a long time now, near the downtown area. Since it’s grand opening was scheduled for mid-August to coincide with move-in day, some of the stores and restaurants had soft openings a week prior. One of the restaurants was CAVA…funny how I visited the Santa Monica location only days before!

CAVA, USC Village
CAVA, USC Village

For their soft opening, the CAVA at USC Village was giving away free food from 12-2pm! I stood in line with some of my labmates for almost 1.5 hours, but since I knew the kind of food we would be getting wasn’t some cheap meal, I had to begrudgingly admit that it was worth it.

CAVA Menu
CAVA Menu

Although…by the time we got inside and were able to place our orders, they had run out of flatbread. We all opted for grain bowls, and I had mine based with lentils, the spicy veggies and all of the other crisp veggie toppings. I think I opted for some lemon dressing this time around instead of the apricot sriracha, but it fit well with what ended up being a warm salad bowl.

Grain Bowl!
Grain Bowl!

I ate my late lunch with E before we continued on with our work day.

When Saturday rolled around, I first drove to Sprouts after a morning run to pick up a snack. I’ve been on a GoMacro bar kick lately (my latest bar obsession), and Sprouts carries their Everlasting Joy flavor, the proceeds of which go to help the homeless.

GoMacro Everlasting Joy
GoMacro Everlasting Joy

I love their chocolate chip/nut butter flavors, so this was an instant favorite of mine. I mean, coconut flakes added to either of those types of flavors can only make it better.

I worked in lab for some of the morning, and since E was also finishing up some stuff, we finished around noon and walked over to where I parked the car to drive off to lunch.

She suggested earlier in the week that we both share a Turkish Breakfast at Mama’s Secret, a cozy, Turkish establishment very close to Beverly Connection.

Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??
Anyone got $1,000 for breakfast??

Maybe if we combined a good chunk of our monthly income, we could have split the $1,000 pancakes…but we weren’t feeling too rich that day, haha!

What we could afford vs. what we couldn't
What we could afford vs. what we couldn’t

Nah, the Turkish Breakfast and cheese-stuffed flatbread not only sounded affordable, but well-rounded and filling for two people.

The Turkish breakfast was served with an assortment of cheeses, veggies, turkey slices (that we left alone), and flatbread. The sauces/dips were filled in cups and included hummus, tahini, honey, jam, nutella, and a ricotta-looking cheese curd.

TURKISH BREAKFAST
TURKISH BREAKFAST

And of course we had some warm tea…

The cheese-stuffed flatbread was my favorite, even though it wasn’t part of the breakfast platter. It came out already cut out in small portions so it was easy to split.

One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.
One of the cheese-stuffed flatbreads they offered. I believe ours was spiced with parsley and basil.

I had no idea that these cheese-filled flatbreads were a staple of Turkish cuisine, but my friend confirmed this foodie fact. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of my new favorite dishes now!

E was meeting some other friends for a movie-in-the-park event (one that I actually went to myself for a friend’s birthday last year…) so I dropped her off before heading home. I felt tired enough to go to sleep early, but I did have a night dessert before turning in.

That Snickerdoodle Dough
That Snickerdoodle Dough

Nada Moo’s Snickerdoodle is cream was soft and creamy, but the lack of dough pieces was a huge disappointment and sub-par in comparison to So Delicious’ offering. Ah well, they tried…

What your current food obsession?

Have you ever had a Turkish breakfast?

Mama's Secret Bakery & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

What Would Rodin Say?

What Would Rodin Say?

Our last day in Paris fared better than the previous two days, but Paris still couldn’t win me over. We began the day with a sweet breakfast at Maison Passos, a patisserie we hoped carried creme brulee for my sister, but no luck. Instead, we got soggy Nutella crepes. A fantastic representation of quality French dessert selections 😛

Soggy Nutella crepes. Only in Paris, France...
Soggy Nutella crepes. Only in Paris, France…

From there, we decided to pass on the Louvre Museum and instead pay a visit to the Musee Rodin. On our walk there, we encountered some schoolchildren who we assumed were heading over to the museum for a field trip. We followed them just to be sure, haha!

We passed what we think was a military museum?
We passed what we think was a military museum?

The schoolchildren weren’t going into the Musee Rodin, but we did find it tucked away on a narrow street. The entrance was a huge courtyard, and we found our way into the ticket sales line. Of course, the sales people had issues with our credit card/their credit card machine so we held up the line for a good twenty minutes. I was getting irritated by the tourists behind us commenting on how “that’s why they don’t pay with credit card”. Shut up, I’m not going to carry around 100 Euros in my pocket only to have it snatched from a pickpocket, only to be more convenient to others 😛

We did make it through though.

Visitor for the day
Visitor for the day

We made our way through the courtyard, and observed that all the “serious/artsy” sculptures were outside in direct sunlight and closest to the entrance. “The Thinker” was one of these iconic sculptures.

"The Thinker is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. "
“The Thinker is a bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin, usually placed on a stone pedestal. “

We had more fun looking and taking pictures of (and with) the sculptures towards the back.

The funny guyz
The funny guyz

Inside the museum, there were more works that were smaller in size, and that were sculpted in different mediums.

Thought this one was elegant...
Thought this one was elegant…

That was enough culture for one morning, and we had built up a strong enough appetite for lunch. We thought our final meal out in Paris should be at an authentic French cafe with outdoor seating, and we were lucky to find one that also served vegetarian cuisine! Le Grenier de Notre-Dame is apparently the first first vegetarian and macrobiotic restaurant to open in Paris, in 1978.

We started off with water and fruity drinks.

drinks

I ended up ordering a ratatouille/hot pot like dish, but it turned out it to be a thin tomato soup with veggie dogs thrown in with cooked veggies.

♥

I wasn’t too thrilled by it after seeing what my sis and Dad got.

♥

Their full plates came with crisp dressed side salads, a spinach quiche-like slice, rice/quinoa in tomato sauce, and poached egg. I had their leftovers, for sure.

Our meal was filling enough to carry us across to Notre Dame across the street. It was blazing hot though, and the thought of standing in line to enter the cathedral seemed too exhauting for my sis and I. Our Dad went in to take pictures while we rested in the shade, and admired the architecture of the cathedral from the outside. We even observed a couple in wedding garb taking pictures, and my sister and I were surprised that the bride didn’t mind her dress collecting dust and dirt from the surroundings.

♥

When my Dad came out, we walked for a couple more blocks trying to find creme brulee. We walked into chocolate shops, countless patisseries, and even the equivalent of mall food courts but we couldn’t find the one dessert my sister was dying to have besides her usual chocolate. We eventually gave up the search, and found a Monoprix to get some food gifts to take home.

I had fun exploring the aisles and finding some funny, rebranded items marketed for the French.

Who is Vaiana? And no indication that "Very Bad Kids" are indeed sour gummies.
Who is Vaiana? And no indication that “Very Bad Kids” are indeed sour gummies.

We made it back to the apartment earlier than the previous day, but still feeling accomplished about exploring Paris to the best of our abilities. My sister and I agreed that it would take some really special circumstances to ever come back, but at least we made the most of the experience and had stories to tell. Travel tidbits such as 1) stay away from Gare du Nord and 2) know how to read a used ticket stub were important skills to learn, but things I was glad not to worry about after our three-day stay.

Our two weeks flew by fast, but I was happy for the opportunity to do this with my family, at the time we did it. However, I must say, I can’t deny that I was eager to return home!

First Stop, Iceland!

First Stop, Iceland!

Our European adventure began on a Sunday morning, with a stop for bagels before heading to the airport. My Dad had a rental since we used it to move my sister’s stuff, so before heading over to our terminal, we dropped it off and took the shuttle from there.

Checking in and security was surprisingly not too bad! TSA Pre does have it’s advantages…since our first leg was a domestic flight to JFK Airport in NYC.

Our flight was about six hours long, but on Jet Blue, so we were set, haha. Once we landed, we realized we had to walk over to another terminal and go through security again (this time, a much more tedious process), before being able to find something to eat.

Options for food at JFK’s international terminal are all things mediocre and mundane. We ended up getting personal pizzas and a salad to “get our greens in”. It took about an hour between dinner and finally boarding on Icelandic Air.

When we did board, we were handed cute water bottles with the top part of the bottle shaped like a glacier. And the music playing was very Enya-like.

Glacier bottle?
Glacier bottle?

There were no free inflight meals or snacks, but we came prepared with our own. I mostly slept for the majority of the flight, so hunger wasn’t a huge issue. We reached Reykjavik (actually Keflavik) by morning.

Upon landing, we had to exit out of the side of the plane (in the cold…) and board a bus to take us to the airport. After going through immigration and collecting our luggage, we were able to grab a rental and head out on Icelandic roads.

Everything looked so dreary and foggy, but overall it actually felt quite peaceful. It was an hour drive from the KEF airport to Reykjavik proper, but we knew we were in “civilization” upon seeing large warehouses and more traffic.

The address to our Airbnb was so short, I was surprised Google Maps didn’t come back with an error message. We weren’t too trepiditious about the apartment we would be staying in once we got settled in.

Airbnb digs.
Airbnb digs.

Yeah the bathroom was tiny, but the rooms were simple, clean, and our host left us a good number of blankets on the sofa so we wouldn’t get cold. Plus, I think tiny bathrooms are part of the whole European living experience, haha.

After freshening up, we got in our rental and drove to the city center. It was freezing cold, and I wanted to make sure we knew exactly where our coffee/breakfast destination was before getting out of the car! Good thing we parked in front of Reykjavik Roasters.

Reykjavik Roasters
Reykjavik Roasters

It was like walking into someone’s kitchen/garage. Half of the space had a bakery counter and tables, while the other half was “storage” for large bags of coffee beans.

coffee
Eclectic decor, eclectic people
roasters
Bread and baked goods 🙂

We first realized Iceland was pricey when we saw that the coffee would be 800 Kroner…$8 USD for a single cup of coffee. It was sticker shock for sure, but we knew we’d only be here for two days so we put up with it. Along with coffee, we split some fresh nut bread with cheese and jam, a cinnamon scone, and a coffee “jogart” parfait topped with honey and almonds.

Icelandic breakfast
Icelandic breakfast

Everything tasted so fresh and warm, and even though I was the one that had the coffee jogart, I gobbled up my piece and leftover crumbs left from the scone.

After our authentic coffee break, we walked a couple blocks towards the water. There was a huge walking path that was carved alongside the water, hugged by rocks. Walkers, runners, and photographers could all be seen walking along the trail.

icelandddddddddddd
A glimpse of Icelandic coast

We stopped to take pictures along the way, including one of what we thing is an abstract sculpture of a viking’s ship.

Before heading back to the apartment for a few hours of rest, we stopped at a shopping mall called Kringlan to see if we could grab some snacks that weren’t, uh, so pricey in comparison to the morning’s meal…

kringlan
Kringlan

We stepped inside a store similar to the dollar store, and came out with nothing since everything for sale was extremely overpriced for what it’s actually worth. It left me wondering, are Icelandic people just richer than the rest of us? Or is it really that much of a struggle to live here?

1500kroner
An expensive fish pilow

We felt more justified buying food, and when we entered Bonus, an Icelandic-based grocery store, we were able to make it out alive with our wallets not undergoing a huge drop in weight, haha!

bonus!
Oh hello Nutella!

After our purchases, we were able to rest up, and then head out again for dinner—at Kaffi Vinyl! More on that in the next one 🙂

I Seriously Only Buy Food

I Seriously Only Buy Food

After walking over to Malibu Country Mart, I actually felt like shopping! What held me back was my wallet…even though there were some cute clothing shops, I couldn’t justify paying the prices that they were asking for.

malibucountrymarket_grom
Malibu Country Mart

There was even a Lululemon, and usually I humor myself when I go in there. Maybe one day I’ll be crazy enough to “treat” myself to a luxuriously-priced piece of clothing that will, at the end of the day, end up being drenched in sweat (especially if worn for a long run). For now though, I usually walk in, notice how unenthusiastic the employees are about doing their job (i.e. helping customers), and walk out proudly, knowing that I did not succumb to fitness peer pressure.

grom_menu
GROM Gelateria, Malibu

The gelato place I was more interested in was conveniently right next to Lulu. I actually knew about GROM from before because they have a location in Hollywood. Haven’t been to that one yet because it’s in a tourist hotspot that I do my best to avoid, but that won’t stop me from EVER going. This GROM was small and cleanly decorated. There were lots of children and their moms ahead of me in line, so I took that time to figure out what to get.

gelato
Small, cute shop

They have small, medium, large, and extra large cups, as well as waffle cones. I’ve always been a cup kind of gal, but I had to do a double take on the small cup. Not sure how they could have fit even kids size scoop from Baskin-Robbins into that thing! Well, since it is an Italian brand perhaps things run smaller?

grom_sizes
100% natural, yay!

Also since I wanted to try two flavors, I chose to get the medium cup, which in my opinion holds a normal small-sized scoop. I got half Nutella and half lemon ginger which I later found out was actually sorbet, not gelato.

grom
1/2 Hazelnut (Nutella) + 1/2 Lemon Ginger

I sat in a picnic chair just outside the entrance, and needless to say, the Nutella side of my scoop was my favorite. It was creamy, and literally tasted like iced Nutella. The lemon ginger sorbet was fine too, but I guess I was not as thrilled by it because I had not intended on getting a sorbet flavor.

top
From the top!

After savoring my sweet gelato, I walked around some more before calling it a day. I bought this cookie from a snack shop just before heading on the bus:

cookie_of_the_season
Alternative Baking Company’s Cookie of the Season – Snicker Doodle

It literally smelled and tasted like pizza dough with a dusting of a cinnamon. In other words, disgusting. It’s unfortunate this one tasted so bad, as I wanted this vegan product to be so much better than it actually was. Maybe it was this particular flavor…but if they want to do better they should probably take a hint from Lenny & Larry’s.

My Labor Day off was a success in terms of relaxation, exploration, and eating nutritious foods that were also good for the soul. I felt a little bit more refreshed going into work the next day, but I’m not saying I couldn’t use more breaks 😉

Grom Gelato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Race Recap – Owasso Marching Band Run to the Beat 5k

Race Recap – Owasso Marching Band Run to the Beat 5k

For about five weeks, I’ve been frustrated when it comes to running. After beginning to see improvements in my pace, and after finally getting into the 35-40 mi/week range, I began to feel posterior shin pain in my left leg. At first it was mild, and it came about during a week I was feeling tired all over, so I dropped my mileage substantially and took it easy. When the pain didn’t go away right away, I knew it must be an injury, and as much as I hated having to do so, I lowered my mileage for a few weeks after, and slowed my pace in order to not exacerbate the injury.  I even ended up sacrificing $45 that I paid as a registration fee for a 10K I was planning on running at the end of July, since that was when the pain really started to kick in and I decided it was best not risk making the injury worse.

It’s been something I’ve had to figure out on a weekly basis, and it’s something I wish would go away ASAP. I first had it checked out by a chiropractor at the IDEA expo as an area I could get free KT tape for. I then went to a running store to replace the Newtons I had run 500+ miles on, and got some suggestions from the sales clerk there on what I could do in the meantime to help my shin heal faster. This was about three weeks before I made the trip to Oklahoma, and with the pain still there (less intense on some weeks, and more intense on weeks I tried to increase mileage), I tried Graston for the first time. I’m not sure if it really helped, but the PT who conducted the procedure advised that I should notice the effects 72 hours after the procedure was administered. I’ll be keeping an eye on it as this week continues, but dealing with this injury (though now healing) has really dampened my enthusiasm even though at the back of my mind, I know that it is a temporary set-back.

Since I was in Oklahoma for a week, I did want to participate in a race since my Dad could attend as well. The Graston Guy (lol) said running on Saturday would be okay, and so I was able to participate in the “Run to the Beat 5K” in Owasso. The race was benefiting the Owasso High School Marching Band, and being a band geek myself back in the day, I was glad I was helping out a local band attend marching reviews, purchase instruments, and refurbish uniforms.

Owasso is a town about 20 minutes north of metropolitan Tulsa, and the drive reminded me of the drives I used to take on the way to Sacramento when I lived in Nor Cal just a few years ago…

Sunrise and new running shoes to help with my pronation.
Sunrise and new running shoes to help with my pronation.

The race, and race-check-in, was taking place at Owasso High School, home of the Owasso Rams. The weather was about 20 degrees cooler than predicted, with gray clouds looming overhead and with rain being in the new forecast as well.

Race Check-In
Race Check-In

Packet pick-up was underwhelming, but I did get a new race shirt along with promo cards for other local races I knew I would not be able to attend, since they would be taking place from September-November.

Packet Pick-Up
Packet Pick-Up

A fun run took place on the football field starting at 7:00am, which I assumed was about a mile based on the times people were finishing. By the time the last person was in from the fun run, everyone else began to assemble for the 5k race. I positioned myself close to the front, since I wanted to set myself up to run between an 8:20-8:50/mi pace.

Getting ready to begin
Getting ready to begin

One thing that distinguished this race from all of the Cali races I’ve run was that an actual hunting rifle was used to signal the start of the race, rather than a blow horn or…something less intense? Haha. A few girls in front of me covered their ears with their hands, knowing that the rifle was going to be LOUD. The guy holding the rifle looked so serious, as if the sanctity of the race depended on his ability to shoot the rifle, which I thought was absolutely comical.

Do you see the hunting rifle in his hands?! (Okay maybe not...the picture is blurry, haha)
Do you see the hunting rifle in his hands?!

When we were given the motion to take off, I could feel my shin slightly act up when I initially pushed off, but once I got going, the pain subsided. I was averaging a 7:45 pace (!!) for the first 0.6 miles, and for the first mile, ended up with 7:56 or something like that. As the race continued, my pace slowed slightly, but I was able to maintain within an 8:20-8:30/mi pace for the rest of the time through. I was pushing, but not so hard that I was going to keel over.

The last turn had us go around the football stadium bleachers in order to cross the same finish line the fun run runners crossed, which was next to the football field and on the track. I finished with an 8:23/mi pace according to my Garmin, and while it wasn’t as speedy as my last 5K back in June, I was very ecstatic with my performance and time, given my shin troubles in the past weeks.

Start/Finish on the Football Field
Start/Finish on the Football Field

There wasn’t much in race freebies other than water bottles, bagels from Panera (though they did have a wide variety of flavors available), bananas in the raw (ugh), and one table for an energy drink whose name I already forgot.

My Dad was patient enough to wait until everyone crossed the finish line so that the “award ceremony” could begin. Small medals were given to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers in male and female age groups. With my time, I ended up getting second in my age group.

After the race, we drove back to Tulsa for some breakfast since it was 9:00 and all we had that morning was some coffee. We went to an old favorite, Old School Bagels, and it was just as lively as I remember from last December.

BAEgels
BAEgels

It was warm enough to sit outside this time around though (even though the clouds above begged to differ), and my Dad and I split the same two bagels as we did last time: a savory honey wheat bagel with egg and cheese, and a sweet cinnamon bagel with Nutella. I also had a couple sips of his black coffee. They were playing the women’s Olympic triathlon on one of the TVs they had outside, so all of us on the patio had our eyes glued to the screen as we ate.

Love this.
Love this.

After breakfast, we proceeded with our Saturday wrapping up some errands, napping, and getting food ready for a dinner we were having with some family friends later that evening. The rest of my Saturday seemed to go smoothly since my mind was put at ease from the results of the race. Even though the pain isn’t completely gone yet, I was still able to run at a solid pace despite it. I think that mentally gave me a confidence boost, as well as assurance that it will eventually heal.

 I was also grateful that I was able to run a race with my Dad in attendance after almost a year! The last race he saw me run was the RNR Las Vegas in November, so having him waiting for me at the finish line was a great motivator as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a local race taking place around the holidays so he can attend again, but until then, I’m looking forward to a fun and challenging fall racing season (if my shin continues to cooperate of course)!

Have you ever had an annoying exercise-related injury?

Waffle Love

Waffle Love

It’s hard to believe that it’s March, and what’s harder to believe is that even though it’s spring break time, I have more work than ever!! On the agenda is a 20-page paper, getting ready for a meeting involving a number of professors revolving around my lab project, and keeping up with the work I do on a daily basis. But this too will pass…and going out and having delicious dessert plates will make it easier for it to go by!

Before having it really hit home that I have TONS to do in the next two weeks, I actually had a pretty chill week last week, as well as a fulfilling weekend. I treated myself to two new B&J pints that week, including a core and a vegan flavor:

I am so glad PB & Cookies was the first non-dairy B&J pint I tried, because it was insanely delicious! It had legitimately-size cookie sandwich chunks, and thick PB swirl pieces. The almond milk-base was surprisingly tasty as well!

macch (1)
Non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s—vegans rejoice!!

I would even go far as to say that this flavor is part of my top picks! The brownie batter core flavor though…

b&j_browniebatter
Brownie Batter Core

Besides having to “deal with” the chocolate, I was a fan of everything else. It was funny how most of the brownie pieces were on the vanilla side. I also did a pretty good job saving the core for last, when I was able to truly taste the crunchy, yet smooth brownie batter.

On Saturday, I was able to catch an afternoon showing of Zootopia, and I was thoroughly entertained by it. It may be animated, and a product of the Disney factory, but the story, (heart of the) characters, and poignant moments were all too real. I knew I wanted to see it after seeing the sloth trailer months ago, and after my sis saw it own, we spent one morning texting each other all the funny and our favorite parts of the movie.

Sunday was even more low-key, and after morning lab work, I hopped on a bus in downtown and headed towards Monterey Park in east LA. After seeing countless pictures of lattes decorated with classic anime characters and potted plant puddings, I knew I had to pay Macchiato a visit.

Macchiato
Macchiato

Macchiato is just one of countless Asian coffee/tea/dessert shops strung together on the same block. Even so, it was packed on Sunday mid-afternoon, and I assumed it was because so many students who work well in coffee shop settings needed to get their study on for the midterms they needed to take before spring break!

Studying away (and snacking away!)
Studying away (and snacking away!)

I looked at the menu at my seat, which was in the far corner of the cafe close to the employee kitchen. It was by no means the prettier part of the cafe, but at least I was able to get a seat. As other patrons came in after me, most ended up getting their goods to go.

Menu
Menu

The ‘Feed Me Waffle’ section was calling out to me—so I went with the Macchiato Sundae Waffle.

Feed Me Waffle
Feed Me Waffle

After fifteen minutes or so, a plate stacked with waffles, ice cream, and fruit was placed before me.

My Waffle Sundae
My Waffle Sundae

The waffles were crispy, drizzled with chocolate syrup, and had a small schmear of Nutella on the bottom. The ice cream was of the Neapolitan variety, with a small ball of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry and whipped cream in between each!

Ice cream up close.
Ice cream up close.

The fruit was a balanced mixed of berries, mango, and banana.

Crispy, crispy waffle!!
Crispy, crispy waffle!!

I had the waffles first, and tried to mix the berries and ice cream together to add to the waffle, but that ended up being too complicated! The ice cream alone on each waffle was good enough. That meant saving the fruit for last, but that was no problem 🙂

What’s your favorite waffle topping?

Macchiato Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Stax of Sweetness

Stax of Sweetness

I knew that a fun-filled week of free food, beaches, and vegan favorites would eventually come to an end, but at least it ended on a sweet note.

Our trip to Tustin eventually became a trip to Irvine. The day was still gorgeous, bright, and sunny when we pulled up to the parking lot at University Town Center, right across from the UC Irvine campus.

 University Town Center!
University Town Center!

The little shopping and dining area very much gave off a college town vibe, and it reminded me of my undergrad days…

 Beautiful arches...one of which decorates my dessert destination!
Beautiful arches…one of which decorates my dessert destination!

My purpose for the visit that afternoon was to get my cookie-and-ice-cream fix at Stax Cookie Bar, a custom ice cream sandwich shop that also serves up other sweet specialties. I was fortunate to try some of those as well 😉

 Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!
Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!

I first met Marina, who had reached out to me about coming in for a tasting. She greeted me with a smile and an overview of all their goods—cookies, ice cream, shave ice galore!

cookies!!!!
Stuffed cookies (smookies!) and a wide variety of other cookies!

I was then greeted by another staff member who encouraged me to try whatever I wanted and to make sure I left feeling “full”. How could I argue against that 😀 ?

 Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.
Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.

I first learned about the Smookie, which is really a warm, shapened piece of cookie dough that can be topped with any flavor ice cream and fudge, caramel, or whipped cream.

 So many ice cream flavors...which to choose??
So many ice cream flavors…which to choose??

I chose to have the Nutella-stuffed Smookie as my base, topped with a scoop of green tea ice cream and whipped cream. Best decision ever.

 The perfect Smookie.
The perfect Smookie.

The Nutella filling was obviously the best part 😉 ! It was also at the right temperature, coming out of the oven after just 3 minutes of warming up.

 The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:
The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:

For my other ice cream-related dessert, I was able to customize a ice cream cookie sandwich so that I had birthday cake ice cream (how convenient 😉 ) in between a mocha and snickerdoodle cookie. I had all flavor and color profiles represented here!

 The masterpiece.
The masterpiece.

My Dad liked the birthday ice cream the best, and I could certainly see why. The ice cream was perfectly creamy, and the added swirls of color tasted just like icing. It wasn’t just for show.

 Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form...and sandwiched in between two cookies?!
Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form…and sandwiched in between two cookies?!

To add to all the sweet excitment, we were given another dessert to try—a generous portion of green tea shave ice! Topped with syrup and freshly cut fruit.

 The presentation itself was beautiful!
The presentation itself was beautiful!

It tended to melt pretty quickly, so being the resourceful person that I am (haha), I used to top off the leftover cookie pieces from my ice cream sandwich. We weren’t able to completely finish it, but if our stomachs had been large enough, there’s no question we would have annihilated the cup and then some 😛 .

I asked Marina about their vegan options, and she pointed to two of their specially-vegan flavors. I was urged to take one for the road, so I chose to try their vegan (and gluten-free!) coconut chocolate chip cookie. I was also gifted with a beautiful stack of cookies!

 My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered
My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered

The vegan coconut chocolate chip cookie was more fragile compared to the regular cookies, but its flavors were just as great, if not better than a standard cookie. It tasted just like a sweet oatmeal bar with gooey chocolate mixed in and rich coconut oil gleaming on the surface.

Stax has plans to open more locations in the future, and I surely hope they do, since I can’t have this be my only visit 😉 . Ice cream sandwich and cookie bars may have started out as a trendy thing, but based on my experience, Stax has taken it to the next level!

Click to add a blog post for Stax Cookie Bar on Zomato

When I Don’t Study, I Eat

When I Don’t Study, I Eat

Last week was insane school-wise.

I had two intense exams in both of my classes on the SAME day, as well as a paper that was due over the weekend. Fun times in grad school…

 An hour before one of my exams, and not even free coffee could keep me from being distracted!
An hour before one of my exams, and not even free coffee could keep me from being distracted!

I still managed to have some “fun” and gave myself study breaks by making myself go out for some fresh air food. I was able to do just that on both weekends that sandwiched my horridly-scheduled exam week.

I mentioned that after my half, I had a late lunch. It was more like a super late breakfast, since I ended up ordering something to satisfy my sweet tooth from Jacks N Joe—a snug breakfast-centric restaurant tucked behind a strip mall.

SAMSUNG

I arrived about half an hour before their closing time in the mid-afternoon. One of the employees was putting away the outdoor seats and tables, but she pleasantly held the door open for me as I approached the entrance. After declining a spot at the counter, I gladly took a table for one near the cash register, and didn’t mind since it gave me a central view of the restaurant.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

After looking over the menu another time (I looked at it dozens of times online 😛 ), I decided to order one of their signature french toast plates.

SAMSUNGAnd it ended up being a heavenly choice 😉

 7 Minutes in Heaven French Toast ~ 3 slices of Hawaiian french (lol) toast with nutella, bananas, and strawberries.
7 Minutes in Heaven French Toast ~ 3 slices of Hawaiian french (lol) toast with nutella, bananas, strawberries, and of course powdered sugar.

The bread was soft and chewy, and can you go wrong with strawberries and chocolate spread? I would have enjoyed this dish even without the bananas, but I’m not exactly a fan of the fruit so I’m a little biased there 😛

 I tolerated the banana slices because there was chocolate!
I tolerated the banana slices because there was chocolate!

I didn’t even touch the bottle of syrup that my waiter put on the table prior to my french toast coming out. There was truly no need!

SAMSUNG

Despite averaging ~8 hours each day researching/writing for my paper the weekend after exam week, I still managed to get out for some eats. I decided not to venture off too far, since it was chilly as far as LA weather was concerned, and because my “free” time was limited.

I kept things simple by busing over to Fairfax Ave. since I could do some grocery shopping in the same area, while grabbing a bite to eat at Swinger’s Diner.

SwingersDinerHollywood
The parking lot, entrance, and waiting near the door.

 The place was packed at 3pm on a Saturday, and no one wanted to eat outside since it was windy and cold, so I ended up having to wait twenty minutes for a seat. Even then, I was given the suggestion to get a booth at the back of the restaurant, and so I didn’t get to continue people watching. 

interior.
People watching while waiting for a table. Mod art on the wall.

Instead, I ended up facing the cow wall, and had these condiments to entertain me.

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The menu was…entertaining as well, haha. I just quickly scanned through it to find the vegetarian and vegan options I had read online about, which was easy to do since a “thumbs up” icon next to a menu item meant it was vegetarian, and a peace sign meant it was vegan.

the menu
Had to blur out some non-PG images, which I didn’t notice at first but then was like whoathere

After reading the fine print, I learned that tofu could be subbed in for chicken at no extra cost, so to my pleasant surprise, that opened up a lot more meal options! Because of that, I decided to get the grilled jamaican jerk chicken tofu 😀 . 

Waiting for my food to arrive took just as long as waiting for a seat. It was probably because the diner was still busy, but since I was literally facing a wall, time seemed to pass by slower than reality. Sure, there was a window to my left, but the view was the back of a hotel, and an obscured view at that since my booth was at a low level. 

When this came out, I wasn’t sure what to think exactly—why were the tofu pieces so thin and pathetic-looking? or plantains that look like french fries?? YES 😀 

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Grilled Jamaican Jerk Tofu ~ jerk-marinated tofu with fried plantains black beans and sauteed quinoa.

Even though the tofu was a disappointment, the plantains picked up the slack—having just enough crisp on the outside, yet chewy on the inside. The black beans added flavor that the “marinade” on the excuse-for-tofu was lacking, and the quinoa added some extra crispiness to the dish, since it was sauteed.

SAMSUNG

So after getting some food in me and doing some grocery shopping at the Grove, I got back home just as the sun was setting and felt refreshed enough to revise another draft of my paper. Sunday’s “adventures” were limited to a long run at Griffth Park with my running group, and then literally sitting at my kitchen table for almost 8 hours total wrapping up the paper that controlled my weekend.

Well, at least it’s done now!

How often do you need breaks when you study/work?

Jacks N Joe on Urbanspoon

Swingers on Urbanspoon

Power to the Powdered PB!

Power to the Powdered PB!

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid to write this review. This review is based on the products and information I received from Tru-Nut Powdered Peanut Butter. All opinions are my own.

June has turned out to be a nutty kind of month. Why so? Well, this sort of took control of my kitchen…

Tru-Nut Powdered Peanut Butter

Yup, when powdered peanut butter makes its appearance in a kitchen, you know it’s time to make room for some protein and creativity! Here are some stats:

  • 1.5g of fat/2 tbsp.
  • Non-GMO and gluten-free
  • 5g of PROTEIN/serving
  • Made from high oleic, roasted US-grown peanuts

I reviewed a similar product a year ago, but what I found unique about Tru-Nut is that it also offers chocolate and cinnamon-flavored powdered peanut butter, which I assume wouldn’t taste great mixed with savory condiments, but I bet it would be awesome as an ingredients included in sauces and spreads to be poured over waffles, cakes, breads—anything you can imagine that’s sweet!

After opening the jar, the first thing I thought about was greek yogurt. Not exactly an out-of-the-box idea based on my past creations, but it was something I knew I could count on tasting good.

Cinnamon Raisins English Muffins with Peanutty Greek Yogurt Spread (1)
Cinnamon Raisins English Muffins with Peanutty Greek Yogurt Spread

With the “leftover” peanut Fage, I added Nutella because that was obviously the right thing to do 😉

Nutella with Peanut Fage
Nutella with “Peanut” Fage

Despite sticking with what I know (and loving it), I did venture out and try something new—a new waffle recipe to be more specific:

Peanutty Pepita Waffle with Chocolate Hazelnut Peanut Spread

Peanutty Pepita Waffle with Chocolate Hazelnut Peanut Spread
Serves 2
A granola-bar infused waffle with a creamy, nutty chocolate spread.
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Total Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
For Waffles
  1. - 85g of waffle/pancake mix
  2. - 2 tbsp. of powdered peanut butter
  3. - 3/4 to 1 bar (granola bar) with pepita seeds or the equivalent amount of pepita seeds --> I used an Evolution Bar
For spread
  1. - 1 1/2 tbsp of powdered peanut butter
  2. - about 2 tbsp of Nutella
  3. ~ water for consistency
Instructions
  1. Pour waffle mix, powdered peanut butter, and just enough water to make a thick, but pourable, batter.
  2. Mix well with a whisk.
  3. Crumble ¾ of a trail-mix granola bar with lots of pepita seeds, or pour the equivalent amount of pepita seeds into the batter.
  4. Mix well again.
  5. Pour batter onto a waffle iron and let it cook until nice and crisp.
  6. For the spread, mix powdered peanut butter (I used Tru-Nut) and Nutella together.
  7. Add water to the mix above until you get the consistency you want (a thick spread or a thinner sauce).
  8. Pour the nutty chocolate coating over fresh waffles, and EAT!
Notes
  1. Makes about 6-7 waffle quarters depending on the iron used. Split between two people, serving size would be 3-4 quarters. Serving size for spread is for one 😉
Will Study for Food http://www.willstudyforfood.com/
Batter, Waffle Iron, Spreaddddddddd
Batter with bar mixed in // ready for the waffle iron // the spread mixed up // the bar I used

I also used it to make some savory dressings and sauces. Here, I mixed it with ketchup to make a tangy sauce similar in appearance to a thai peanut sauce. I didn’t thin it out as much as I would have liked to (with water), but I made enough to cover most of my steamed cauliflower and baked potato for dinner one night.

Cauliflower and Potato with Peanut Tomato Sauce

In this salad that I had for dinner after work one evening, I mixed some powdered PB with soy sauce and added enough water to make enough dressing to drench my salad of raw zucchini noodles, portabello mushroom caps, and steamed vegetable medley of carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. I then topped the mix with some pretzels. It certainly was a wholesome bowl of good eats.

Raw Zucchini Noodle Salad with Portabello Mushroom, Steamed Veg, Pretzels, and Peanut Soy Sauce

Other than what’s been showed above, I mixed some powdered PB with coconut milk to make a protein smoothie of sorts—which I then added to an almost empty Nutella jar. It was certainly a darling treat that I looked forward to devouring after work 😀 !

Do you like using peanut flour for sweet or savory dishes?

Oatmeal the Way I Want It

Oatmeal the Way I Want It

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid to write this review. This review is based on the products and information I received from MyOatmeal.com. All opinions are my own.

I took a break from oatmeal for the majority of this year, and surprisingly did not face too much of a withdrawal. I guess it was because I replaced one food obsession with another. But my break from early morning oatmeal consumption was very much needed, since I found myself craving it non-stop last year, and absolutely could not leave the house without having a warm bowl of oats, brown sugar, and those delectable craisins.

Last week, I decided to return to consuming my beloved oatmeal, since now I need a break from Greek yogurt! This decision was primarily made based on an e-mail I received from MyOatmeal.com, a new customizable healthy oatmeal company that graciously reached out to me.

MyOatmeal.com1

One of their representatives, Anthony, asked me if I would like to make two of my own oatmeal blends to sample and review. How could I refuse :D?

The website itself has a simple enough interface, so after clicking on the “Build Your Blend” button, I landed here:

MyOat2

You start off by selecting how much oatmeal you want, what type of oats (I went with the classic quick rolled instant and steel cut oats), and what flavor you’d like.

MyOat3

There is an incredible list of flavors that include black forest cake, cookie dough, lemon meringue, horchata…if you can’t find something you like here, I don’t know what to say ;). I ultimately decided to go with cake batter and key lime pie for my flavors.

For the final steps, I could add fruit…

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…sweetener, nuts, and then order!

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One thing I thought was pretty cool was how the nutrition facts updated itself based on what ingredients you added or what oats you chose. On the same note, the price also adjusted itself so you could estimate your order before checkout. The checkout process was just as simple as making my order, and a box arrived at my door within three days. (Since the company is based in Arizona, shipping to Cali wasn’t expected to take forever).

My two bags of “small” oatmeal were full to the brim, and I couldn’t wait to try them!

The one on the left are my instant oats, and the steel cut is in the see-through bag.
The one on the left are my instant oats, and the steel cut is in the see-through bag.

Since you get to name your custom blends, I named my steel cut oat blend “Cherry Cake Batter” since I added cherries, and tried that first.

Cherry Cake Batter

 

For fruits, you can designate how much you want from light all the way to heavy. I selected to have the regular amount of dried cherries, but it was still plentiful!

Inside of Bag

 

Kinda feel like I should be honest here and say I picked out a lot of the cherries and ate them by themselves :P! What can I say? I love dried fruit!

I did manage to save enough to cook up some steel cut oats the ol’ fashioned way: on the stove top.

Stove

The cherries mixed well with the oats once cooked, and the breakfast was nice and filling! I didn’t need to add milk or sugar since I already had a sweetener added when I made my order.

Good ol' bowl of steel cut oats with dried cherries

I also soaked these oats overnight and put them in the microwave the following morning. It tasted even more fluffier than when I cooked them on the stovetop!

With Nutella:

Steel Cut Oats with Nutella

With Kefir:

Steel Cut Oats with Kefir

My second blend was the key lime pie flavor instant oats, mixed with dried dates, a.k.a. “Dates with a Key Lime Pie”. Clever, right :P?

Instant Oats

Since instant oats used to be my go-to all the time, I had no trouble with just popping a bowl into the microwave and cooking them until perfect fluffy texture.

Fluffy Oatz

This bowl was just one serving, yet it was so filling! I love fluffy oats so this was my favorite blend, hands down. The sweetener really brought out the key lime pie flavor, and even though it was overwhelming at first, I barely noticed it by the time I finished the bowl. It was the same case with the cake batter flavor.

I knew these instant oats would make a perfect add-in for my empty Nutella jar.

Oats In Nutella

They also tasted great with Honey Vanilla-flavored kefir, much better than with the steel cut oats.

Kefir in Instant Oats

Overall, I think customizable oatmeal is a neat concept and offers a breakfast version of food customization, similar to YouBar and the like. The ordering process was straightforward, and when I had a question concerning my specific order, I received quick and helpful customer service.

It was suggested that I add a sweetener to my blends (through the site or at home), and so I followed their advice. I’m glad I did because it truly brought out each of the blend’s flavors. When cooked properly (there are instructions on the back of each bag), my oats came out warm, soft, and delicious on their own (or with toppings :D!).

A small bag with one selection of dried fruit (like my Cherry Cake Batter flavor) runs for about $10-$11, and there is shipping, but each bag has ~11 servings and is well worth the price if you are looking for a specific oatmeal blend (like cookie dough flavored gluten-free oats, for example ;))!.

Thanks to Anthony and MyOatmeal.com for the opportunity to review and learn about this new breakfast product!

What is your ideal oatmeal blend? 

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